UPDATE: Now cross-posted on Harry’s Place.
In recent times, Giles Fraser, Edmund Standing and Searchlight Magazine have explored the relationship between the BNP and some parts of Christianity, and shown have the BNP has attempted to manipulate Christian fear of left-liberal Anglicanism and the pandering to Islamism in order to claim that it is the voice of British Christianity. The BNP even set up ‘The Christian Council of Britain‘, which was only ever a platform for BNP members to mix politics with religion. The BNP is, of course, ultimately a fascist political party that has no interest in Christianity or Judeo-Christian values. Liberals and anti-fascists alike rightly saw the Christian Council of Britain as a Trojan Horse of totalitarianism, seeking to introduce the BNP to Christians by stealth.
The idea that a political party which favours totalitarianism should create a religious front to repackage its ideas to unsuspecting believers is enough to make anyone shudder. Yet this precisely what Friends of Sabeel UK appears to be. ‘Friends of Sabeel UK’ is part of the International Friends of Sabeel movement, linked with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem. ‘Friends of Sabeel’ UK is a registered charity in Britain, and according to its status, its purpose is:
“to advance the Christian religion in the UK by promoting Palestinian liberation theology as developed by Sabeel Liberation Theology Centre, Jerusalem, and advance public education in the history, liturgy and culture of the Christian community in Israel and Palestine (IE Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem)”
Its stated aims are:
“(3.1) To support the Sabeel Theology Centre in Jerusalem in its work for the promotion of religion for the benefit of the community (3.2) to support and encourage the Christian community in the Holy Land (Israel and the Palestinian areas of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem) in their life and witness (3.3) to raise awareness in the United Kingdom concerning Christians in the Holy Land and to promote links with them.”
Yet whilst Friends of Sabeel UK claim to be interested in Palestinian Christians, they are clearly more concerned with attacking and criticising Israel. For instance, one might have reasonably expected Friends of Sabeel UK to have spoken out against the murderers of Gaza bible bookshop owner Rami Ayyad in 2007 – not so. Perversely, for Friends of Sabeel UK to ‘support and encourage’ Palestinian Christians in the Islamist Gaza strip would harm their cause. Friends of Sabeel UK operate under the myth that they are a pacifist, peace-loving group with a commitment to non-violence who wish to avoid boycotting Israel. Yet their most prominent members invariably support violence against Israel and boycott campaigns. Looking at the Patrons of Friends of Sabeel UK is a good way of understanding what the group is really about.
Our first clue comes as we see the name of Afif Safieh, who Friends of Sabeel UK describe as the head of the PLO Mission in Washington. Safieh is currently serving as the Palestinian ambassador to the Russian Federation. Safieh is considered an eloquent and moderate speaker who recognises the need for a two-state solution, nevertheless his involvement in Friends of Sabeel UK as a ‘UK patron’ reveals that Friends of Sabeel UK is linked to a Palestinian political agenda.
Yet although Safieh is a moderate, his fellow Friends of Sabeel UK patron Manuel Hassassian certainly is not. Hassassian is the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, and is also a prominent mover in the anti-Zionist movement. Hassassian has also defended the firing of rockets into Israeli civilian areas, supported Taleban rule in Afghanistan, and has praised Hezbollah as saviours of Arabs – this in spite of Sabeel’s repeated commitment to non-violence.
Another patron of Friends of Sabeel UK is Ibrahim Hewitt, who famously opposed Holocaust Memorial Day. Hewitt is also the head of the controversial NGO Interpal, whom Lloyds TSB have recently disassociated themselves from. Yet Hewitt is not a Christian (indeed he is an ex-Christian convert to Islam), which makes his status as a patron of Friends of Sabeel UK all the more bizarre. Jenny Tonge is another patron, despite her sympathies for suicide bombers.
Tonge is a former trustee of anti-Israel NGO Christian Aid, and fellow Friends of Sabeel UK patron Michael Taylor used to be the Director of Christian Aid. Also listed as a patron is anti-Zionist writer William Dalyrmple, and anti-Israel priests Michael Langrish and John Gladwin.
Whilst Friends of Sabeel UK insists they love Israel, and consider Israel a friend, their patrons (and members) appear to be doing all they can to spread hatred of Israel. And, whilst Friends of Sabeel UK claim that they do not call for an economic boycott of Israel, many of its patrons have done so (Ibrahim Hewitt here, William Dalrymple here, Jenny Tonge here and Manuel Hassassian here).
For all its grandiose statements and claims of moral superiority, Friends of Sabeel UK is a religious front group for political anti-Zionism, and should be recognised as such by British citizens.